Edited by Stephen Tully
Chapter 18: A Multilateral Contribution to Corporate Standards of Behaviour: The ILO’s Declaration on Multinational Enterprises
Kee Beom Kim Introduction Concerns over the social impacts of multinational enterprises (MNEs) have had a lingering tenacity. The perceived threats to the sovereignty and welfare of host countries posed by MNEs ignited an international effort to develop a multilateral framework for corporate regulation in the 1970s. The neo-liberal paradigms of the 1980s and early 1990s effectively replaced apprehension with more accommodating stances. Since the mid-1990s, however, the social conduct of MNEs has again come under public scrutiny, albeit by different actors from those in the 1970s. In response, many enterprises have voluntarily engaged in unilateral or multi-stakeholder initiatives to improve the social impacts of their own operations as well as those of their business partners. Furthermore, a growing number of enterprises have recognised that social responsibility can contribute to the sustainability of their businesses. None the less, the voluntary nature of corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities has raised a number of credibility and verification issues, which in turn have led some actors to call for legally binding frameworks for the regulation of MNEs. This chapter evaluates historical achievements, weighs them against recent trends, considers future prospects for the regulation of international business and raises a number of policy implications. Specifically, the chapter examines the Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy and the growing number and diversity of voluntary private sector initiatives. The various legal issues which have arisen from the multilateral framework and the CSR initiatives of companies challenge the dichotomy between legally binding and...
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